Wednesday, August 31, 2011


If my blog were a TV show, my strongest Neilsen ratings would be three facts and a fib.  Not just any random fact triplets, or just any old untruth.  What seems to be everybody's favorite show here on the LaLa Land network is the ice-breaker game, Three Facts and A Fib.  I wrote about it once in 2008 and since 2005 out of the nearly 3,000 times someone either accidentally or on purpose accessed my site, 243 of those times was to read about Three Facts and A Fib.

What puzzles me is that its not the best example of my writing, it isn't funny, nor is it a good example, or even detailed instructions of how to play the game.  Hell, the facts and fib aren't even interesting enough to have gotten more than 4 comments.  And yet, it continues to draw in viewers from all corners of the Interwebs... mostly from Taiwan, where I can only imagine I must be some kind of cult figure.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

California Adventure - Day 4: Bring me your tired, your poor

The original intent of our California Adventure was for me to attend my 35th high school reunion.  The focus shifted though, as plans for the Time Capsule Opening came together, and as one by one, every one of the people I usually attended these dreaded reunions with, decided to abandon me they couldn't fit it into their schedule this year. No matter, this allowed Downtown Dad and me the opportunity to have a few days to ourselves, and visit the more touristy attractions my friends and I otherwise would have avoided like the plague! steered clear of.

For the whole year leading up to this highly anticipated event, I searched high and low for the people whose names had appeared on the MIA list year after year.  Armed with Facebook and Google, I'd fancied myself not unlike the brazen giant of Greek fame, with conquering limbs astride from land to land... digitally speaking that is.  I endured criticism from my friends stepped out of my comfort zone, and did everything I could to be accepted by helped the homecoming queen and her court three people who always plan the reunions, with what I thought was the most important part - finding lost classmates. I was (in my own mind) a mighty woman with a torch, whose flame was the imprisoned lighting - my name, Mother of Exiles... (ahem, so maybe I got a little carried away).  

Sadly, I learned that my impassioned goal, was not the same as the reunion commitee.  Despite my suggestions to have a potluck in a church basement bonfire at the beach something affordable, - a posh party was planned, the price was set too high which excluded most of the "lost classmates" I'd found, and the free event the next day was cancelled.  Alas, even after 35 years, the social strata was still firmly in place, and my inherently proletariat soul clashed, as it always has, with the upwardly capitalistic souls of my high school reunion's royalty. So, since there most likely wouldn't be anyone there I really wanted to see anyway, Downtown Dad and I decided to NOT attend the Saturday night party.  On Facebook, my fellow peasants and I vowed to meet at the beach and have the free Sunday event anyway, despite the so-called cancellation. I promised to be there at the shore to welcome them, my people, the huddled masses, the wretched refuse, the tempest-tossed.

This then, freed up our Saturday for a leisurely road trip, and the opportunity to see our old friends in concert, in, of all places, Lompoc.

So, upon waking up in "the Poke" as Lompoc is sometimes known, it dawned on me that due to my recent  media follies, I was probably busted if, while I was in town, I didn't go visit my oldest and dearest childhood neighbors who'd retired there. But, one thing led to another, and we were 40 miles down the road toward the coast before I thought of it again, and of course by then, it was too late. Its not that I didn't want to, if I had, I probably would have had yet more hilarious pictures and stories to regale you with.  But I didn't, because we totally had to get back down to Goleta beach, where I was convinced that the hundreds of people who, like me, had boycotted the "official" reunion because of the exorbitant price, would gather (ploughshares, pitchforks and torches optional).  From my beaconed-hand would glow world-wide welcome.....

So we waited....

and waited...

and waited....

Well, maybe those people were on the MIA list year after year because they chose to be.  Maybe they didn't need a giant green statue to guide them to the shore. Maybe a 35 year reunion isn't really the biggest event in everyone's lives...  Finally, just as I was about to run out of rationalizations  excuses for  nice things to say about my classmates, Obeerwan Kenobi who, with his family in tow, had driven 30 miles back down to the beach to attend, texted me "where you at?" We met up in the parking lot, listened to the crickets chirping for a second or two, then decided that you can lead a group of peasants to water, but you can't make 'em drink... and with that we were off to another authentic spot frequented by the aging local beach bums, like us, to have - you guessed it, more BEER!

An hour or so later, Downtown Dad and I bid adieu to Santa Barbara, and moved on to Ventura where we met up with yet another set of long lost relatives, these from DD's Iowa side.  We had an absolutely lovely dinner on the pier, where they wouldn't let us take pictures of them, but they did snap these lovely pics of us.

After a little sightseeing,

We retired to our hotel room, a little weary, but much wiser, to rest up for our last full day on the Left Coast.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Change is the Only Constant

The 5 people that are the core of what I call my family, all stand today on the brink of change.  Some of the decisions are already made, and all that is left to do is to follow the path.  Some of the decisions are still being made, even as the path unfolds.

Downtown Dad and I, torn between the holding on, and the nudging out of the kids, also are wondering how we're going to navigate our own lives when it's just the two of us.

Bobby is at a point where he must step out into unfamiliar territory, in order to pull his life together and move forward.  A job search, particularly when you are dealing with emotional issues is a difficult process, but in the end, a daytime job, medical benefits, and a steady income will go a long way toward a healing process.

Tessie, as she always has, makes two great strides forward, then falters and takes a step and a half back. Her progress, though slower than others, is at least progress.  She begins the college process reluctantly, but with resolve, knowing she must, to support herself and her art.

Bearly literally flies the nest on this day. His path, clearly, and meticulously planned, his carefully cultivated network, and his lifelong thirst for knowledge have him already a step or two ahead of others his age.  He walks confidently toward what his compass has been aimed at for most of his life.

Funny, how all of these life changes have swirled around, coming to a head on this particular weekend.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

California Adventure - Day 3: Behind The Mountains

I still tend to think of the area around my home town in California as different ecosystems, in ascending layers. There's The Beach. The Neighborhood. The Foothills.  The Mountains. And finally, Behind The Mountains.

The people who live in each of these layers are as different as the ecosystems that define each one. There are the Surfer Beach people; the Middle Class Neighborhood people; the Rich Reclusive Foothills people;  the Crazy Hermit Mountain people; and the mysterious people who lived Behind the Mountains.

When I was young, occasionally, our family would travel Behind the Mountains, passing roads and landmarks with names like "Old Stagecoach Road," "Mission Canyon," and "Hidden Valley" which gave me the impression that the people who lived there must look like they had stepped off of an Eagles or Doobie Brothers record album cover.

I just assumed they all rode horses as their main transportation, they all wore flannel shirts, and they all hung out in taverns hockthooing tabacky into brass spittoons.

I was a Neighborhood kid, and the whole idea of the mythical Behind the Mountains people was very romantic to me...

...Until, my dad decided to uproot us and drag us kicking and screaming 40 miles away from the familiar friendly Neighborhood we'd grown up in, to the harsh, uncivilized, outback Behind The Mountains.

Never mind the fact that we moved into a sprawling ranch style home, with a pool, that sat on 3/4 of an acre and backed up to horse pastures and miles of unobstructed rolling hills.  All I knew was that I was ripped away from the only friends I'd ever known, and forced to attend a school where they castrated bulls in a pen right next to the running track.  We lived there for a year and a half and hardly a day passed when I didn't beg to move back "home."

Now all of this is just backstory to set up my mindset before what turned out to be an amazing day Behind the Mountains.

First, according to Downtown Dad, we HAD to visit the Sanford Winery.  One, because he works for a place called 

whose logo looks suspiciously like the winery's logo ... down to the font!

and two, well, it's a winery for Pete's sake!  There must be some kind of healthful connection... don't you think?

And I totally had to get a picture of the "poppies" said in my best Margaret-Hamilton-Wicked-Witch-of-the-West voice.

And the artsy look down the rows of grapevines.

The coastal fog creeping over the ridge... reminding me again that we were in the mysterious realm Behind The Mountains... and that we should beware... after all, you never know what you might see.

So, we tasted some wine, then moved on, driving through some lovely countryside dotted with white fenced horse pastures, and fields of neatly growing crops, from grapes, to walnuts, to marigolds.  There were lovely Spanish style ranch houses that popped up just around nearly every bend. 

At one point Downtown Dad looked over and asked me, "You lived here and saw this every day?  Tell me again, why did you hate it here so much?"  The best answer I could come up with was that a gilded cage is still a cage, and, at the time, I was an angst filled teenager, bound and determined to play the prisoner part to the hilt. 

The fact was that I had actually made some really close friends in the short time I'd lived there, and, had I lived there just a little bit longer, I might not have had to wait 30 years to meet one of them...

But wait, here's another one of those amazing stories...

A few years back, when I was spending a lot of time cultivating the list of blogs I read daily, I discovered one written by a small town mom.  I liked her easy writing style, the great pictures she posted that were vaguely familiar, and her references to the small town she lived in which I guessed was somewhere in the Southern California area.  We commented back and forth, as bloggers do, and then, I took a haitus from blogging.  When I took it up again, under a different name, she was one of the few that followed me. Eventually we became Facebook friends, and I noticed her age was close to mine.  Then I noticed that she'd gone to the same bull-castrating high school I had! At the same time!

And here we are, enjoying a bite to eat at a lovely outdoor cafe.  It was just amazing to me that for two people who had never laid eyes on each other before, we could meet up and chat away like we'd been neighbors for years!  I wish I could have met some of the other characters she lives with... at least Homer!  But we'll have to save that for another time. 

We said our farewells, and moved on down the road toward the place that most exemplifies the Behind The Mountains mystique for me...

Cold Spring Tavern.  Its a little off the beaten track, just under the towering "Suicide Bridge," next to one of the many cold springs on the property - this collection of rustic log cabins really is like travelling back in time.   DD and I shared one of their famous Tri Tip sandwiches and enjoyed a couple of frosty beers while we sat on a log, in the pleasant company of bikers long past their youth, a few locals, and group of young girls celebrating an engagement. The owner himself greeted us and even took our picture!  

We listened to some live music and wandered around the grounds.  I'd come here for a friend's birthday party when we were 13 or so, and it was one of those experiences that became an icon in my memory.  I worried that it might have become commercialized or overly touristy, but I'm happy to say that in nearly 40 years, it hadn't changed a bit!

We finally tore ourselves away, and headed back toward Lompoc, where we were staying.  We still had one more amazing connection to make. 

When we lived in Sioux City, Downtown Dad got acquainted with the Young Dubliners, an Irish rock band that used to play at a local bar we frequented called Buffalo Alice.  He liked them so much that he used to book them for many of the downtown events he put on, so he knows these guys pretty well.  In planning our trip, DD happened to see that The Young Dubliners, or The Dubs as he calls them, were playing in a town just 10 or so miles from where we were staying.  

We showed up and found a place to hang out in the very crowded bar until the band went on stage.  They played their first set, and then Keith, the lead singer, wringing wet with sweat, took a break and went over to the bar to get a beer.  DD stole up behind him and said, "d'ya know a place called Buffalo Alice?"  Keith whipped around, sweat flying, and yelled in his Irish accent "Sioux City!  What the fook are you two doin' here?"  After DD told him, Keith looked at us, hugged us, and said, "Us fookin' here, and you two fookin' here... that's fookin' amazing!" Then he finished his beer and got back on stage.

When it comes to being in the right place at the right time on this vacation, I'd have to agree with Keith, it's fookin' amazing!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Monday, August 15, 2011

The Almost Empty Nest

...We interrupt your regularly scheduled programming of the California Adventure Chronicles to bring you something more current....
This being the last week before college starts for both kids, and therefore my first tentative toe-dip into the Almost Empty Nest, I just wanted to keep up with current happenings....     OK, yeah you're right...     there IS more to it than that... I'm actually convincing myself that just because life as I know it will be changing, there will be interesting things to do....                there WILL be interesting things to do...                there WILL be interesting things to do, there WILL, there WILL...

OK, so the first thing that comes to mind is that Downtown Dad, with his genealogy hat on, found me a brand new cousin on my mother's Hinkley side.  This is a set of relatives I never even knew existed, and weirder still, who were all over the Iowa community we left 11 years ago.  This new cousin also  has a whole album of old pictures like this one of the grandfather I never met.

We are going to DD's high school reunion in September which just happens to be in Iowa.  Maybe we can make this visit like our California Adventure, meeting up with a newfound, or long-lost friend or relative every day!

The dining room is "packing central" as Bearly prepares to leave for American University at the end of this week.

See, there's a positive... I'll have my dining room back!  Not that we'd use it for meals again, I mean really, all people ever use dining room tables for is to stack stuff, right?  Do you think Hoarders is casting?  OK, not funny... well kinda funny.  I could get out my sewing machine, and crafts I used to work on before the kids came along... do people still do Cross Stitch?

Tessie is in full preparation mode to start orientation at MSUM this coming week....she even cleaned her room! She will be getting her new college laptop soon, which means I get the full use of my computer back! 

We will be minus one car in the parking lot driveway next week, when Bobby's car returns to its rightful owner.  Which means I can finally park in the garage if I want to!

I uploaded the posts from my former blog into this one, because I was afraid it would go away and I'd lose all those years of writing - some of which was really good (yes, and some of which was really, really bad).  I had a great time going over the comments on some of the old posts and bookmarking some blogs I've been missing!  This has the potential for being really good, :)  or really bad :(  I remember how much time I used to spend reading and commenting on blogs - yikes! But, on the other hand, that really does increase readership :)  and I've been thinking I'd like to build up a genre of bloggers - like "mommybloggers" only older, AARP-ier, Empty Nest-ier, without that "boring old lady" connotation.  I just need to come up with a creative, fun sounding word to describe whatever that is.  Any suggestions?
We now return you to your regularly scheduled programming... where DD and I drink and drive - before 10am; where the Blog-world and the Real-world collide; and where DD gets a taste of the REAL historic Santa Barbara - and tri-tip sandwiches!

Friday, August 12, 2011

California Adventure - Day 2: In-laws, and Out-laws

This may be a convoluted, long drawn out post, so settle in and grab a libation...

You'd think after the two previous California Adventures in the same day, that Downtown Dad and I would be face down, in the sand by now... but no!  Truth be told, we hadn't even come within spittin' distance of any sand, let alone an ocean!

The truth is, we were moments away from experiencing, if not our biggest adventure yet, one I was most apprehensive about... We were about to meet up with some long lost friends and family!  Not to bore you, but let me begin at the beginning... well maybe not that far back... how 'bout somewheres near the middle of the beginning...

Earlier this year I posted a picture on Facebook of my son (2nd from the left) in his portrayal of the shady "Uncle Ernie" in the Musical Tommy.

Though we'd seen snippets of rehearsals through the curtains as we hammered and painted sets, and over our shoulders as we flung hot-dish and bars at the hungry teenagers, when Jarrod stepped on stage at the first performance with his "mexistache" and chinstrap beardage, I gasped!  DD saw the same thing I saw... he looked like my grandfather!

No wait, maybe he looked more like my grandfather's son, my uncle David...

hmmm, or maybe it was David's son Stan?

I know, Stan's son Craig?

Whichever one it was, I knew he was rockin' the Thomas family resemblance! I realized then that I missed my Thomas family. When we all still lived in Southern California, despite the sibling rivaly between my dad and his brother David, the Thomas clan used to get together more or less regularly for Thanksgivings and Christmases, telling stories, retelling family lore, and usually chatting non-stop well into the evening. That all brought to mind, the fact that I hadn't seen any of those people for ages and ages... OK, mostly because all of them were dead, save the last one, Craig, but still - I had visions of relatives dancing in my head during a high school rendition of a 70's rock opera... and I wasn't even taking any hallucinogens!

It got me wondering where they'd ended up....

Then, there was three weeks of putting on the show, and college visits, then graduation, and well, I just got plain distracted.

Until, one day when I was looking through an old binder of genealogy research. I pulled out an envelope I'd put aside years ago, that, to my surprise, I'd never opened.  It contained a list of spouses, children and birthdates of my dad's siblings' children.  I glanced through the 10 or so pages, which contained the names of the cousins and second cousins I'd grown up with.  I was thrilled to see names of spouses and children that I had, up to that point, not known.  Especially those of Kim, Craig, and the twins, Matt and Doug, the 4 Thomases that I was closest to growing up.

....OK wait... Let me jump back in time again, to the 60s, when I was a Bluebird.  Don't tell me you don't know what  Bluebird is... it's a junior Camp Fire Girl, kind of like what a Brownie is to a Girl Scout, only cooler.

We had so much fun back in the day.  The 8 to 10 of us, who dressed up in our oh-so-red-white-and-blue uniforms, and wore them to school once a week, when we'd meet at the leader's house after school, where we'd pledge to do good, and always be friends, make crafts, and sing happy, yet vaguely Indian related songs.

OK, I said HAPPY, not GAY... just had to add that ....

The mother who was dedicated enough to take on this awesome leader responsibility was my classmate Janet's mom, Mrs. Paden.  She not only knew how to do all of the crafts, but she played piano for the songs, made the treats most of the time, kept 8 to 10 little girls relatively in line for 2 hours, and somehow quelled our superiority, when we turned into a rabble spoiling to rip the brown beanies and spritely elves off of the rival Brownie pack, who met just down the street.  And, she did this all while Janet's sister and two brothers carried on with their lives and activities under the same roof!

I was so happy when Janet brought her mom to the Time Capsule Opening earlier that day, it made me want to glue twigs to a tin pie pan and sing "Ah Woonie Coonie Cha Ah Woonie!"

OK.... now, back to the old binder of genealogy research with the names....  So, as I looked through the names I came to the 4 I'd grown up with and saw that Kim had married a guy named David Paden... Hmmmm, just like my Blue Bird Leader's son.... wouldn't it be funny if it turned out that after all these years I was related by marriage to them?  I quick sent a message to my friend Janet on Facebook to confirm this notion!

Well tie me up and call me Shirley!  As a matter of fact it WAS the same David!  That sure puts a twist in the ole' family tree!

I was able to get in touch with Kim on Facebook, and she quickly started making arrangements for us to meet for our own little Thomas family reunion while I was in town.  Both she and the twins still lived in town, but she never mentioned Craig... was he dead? I wondered...

As it turned out, one of the twins, Doug, was out of town, but lo and behold, Craig, who was not dead, just so happened to be in town!  Serendipity!

Here we are with the proud leader cum mother-in-law in the back ground!  Matt had to do double duty standing in for his absent twin.

The Thomases (and Downtown Dad) invaded the Paden house that night - the very same house the Bluebirds invaded weekly all those years ago!  We talked over old times and retold old family lore, looked at pictures, and chatted non-stop well into the evening. Just like old times!

Over the years, I've learned that whoever the next generation is, what they most value, is not what we owned, but the stories and evidence of who we were, and of how we loved.

In the end, it's the family stories that are the true treasures.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

California Adventure - Day 2: Beer and High School

So, after that crazy story about my elementary school, you'd think that would be enough for one day... but you'd be wrong!  Once all of our treasures were gathered, stowed away, and the doors to the Multi-Purpose room were locked, and the last of our classmates had slowly scattered,

"Bye bye Peter, Angie, Ben, Carrie, Jim, Dorothy, Mrs. Paul!"

that left Downtown Dad and me, and Jim and his two adorable kids, all of us still grinning like goofs, congratulating each other on a job well done. And while the success of the day was absolutely reward in itself, the original plan had included beer.  Being the detail oriented person that I am, I was not about to leave off part of the original plan.

As luck would have it, Jim happens to be quite an authority on beer.  He suggested we follow him to the Hollister Brewing Company for a congratulatory beer and duck-fat fries.

Here we are enjoying a lovely IPA Pope, ordered specifically by Jim, according to my preference for a "chewy" beer.  DD, meanwhile savored a White Star (I think), anyhow, something light.  He was pretty impressed with Jim's ability to point out the flavors and talk about the brewing process, dubbing him "O-beer-wan Kenobi" for the rest of our trip.

Now Downtown Dad, being a "sipper," can make one beer last longer than a vote in Congress, while I tend to  "swill" when I drink.  Hence the opportunity to have packed away half an order of delicious duck-fat fries, and two beers when we bid O-beer-wan farewell, and headed out across the freeway to our next adventure - DD wanted to experience my old high school.

Please let me preface this portion of the adventure by saying that if DD and I met in high school, we would not be the epitome of happy midwestern married couple we are today.  He was, I am sorry to tell you, a Yell Leader, which is the male equivalent of a Cheerleader.

"We've got spirit - yes we do!
We've got spirit - how 'bout you?"

...yeah, whatever.

Lets just say his high school experience included much more of the school, and mine included much more of the high.

Dos Pueblos High School - or Hippie High, as it was called in the 60s and 70s - my alma mater.  Ok, honestly, I really don't even know what alma mater means, presumably something having to do with school spirit, and fight songs, neither of which could I draw out of the dark recesses of my brain, unless by spirit you mean alcohol, in which case showing up at school half-buzzed was not a new experience for me.  Shocking.  I know.  Some things never change... but some things were a little different...

This is where my locker USED to be.

This was Mr. Mooy's biology class. Mr. Mooy, otherwise know as Reporter #1, is immortalized for his Oscar-worthy delivery of the line "Ok boys, let's get some pictures" in the film Airplane.  Great teacher, pronouced Wednesday "WED-ins-day."  Weird what you remember.

The transom window over the door to Mr. Petrini's English class.  He was famous for always asking for "collateral" if you needed to borrow a pencil.  On the last day of school, I gathered a fistful of pencils and threw them through that transom yelling "collateral!" I thought it was hilarious.  Maybe you had to be there.

Sad shape.

The Greek Theatre - pep rallys... again with the spirit thing.

Recreating lunchtime... although back then there would have been a little less of the lonely old lady, and a little more of the Rebel Without A Cause, portrayed in this scene.

"The field" minus the lemon-chuckers... and me without a smoke~!  At some point, they built this bleacher apparatus... apparently people sometimes sit on the tops of these things to watch sports competitions... I wouldn't know, I'm much more familiar with this view.

So, feeling like the host of Amazing Stories, having taken my honey on an odyssey of my school years 1 thru 12, we still had one more story yet to unfold....

One that includes Bluebirds, Facebook, Genealogy, and a little dash of Serendipity!